GAIL MARTIN, Independent Editor
Bill and Theresa Cassel have known each other their whole lives.
The Cassels, who will be celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary later this month, grew up on the edge of Glen Allan. Theresa’s home was the last house on the edge of the village, while Bill’s was the first farm next door. It didn’t seem like much of an advantage to Theresa (then Diebold) when Bill saw her as a scrawny little girl to torment, throwing stones at her until she would run away.
“She could run like a deer,” said Bill.
It wasn’t until Theresa got a little bit older that Bill decided he didn’t want to make her run away anymore. Bill, who is four years older, started hanging around Theresa’s home when she was 13 years of age.
“He used to come visit on his bicycle,” recalled Theresa. “My father would send him away, so he would go home, and stand in his front field, while I would stand on the front lawn, and we’d talk to each other.”
They married a few short years later, when Theresa was 15 — “almost 16″ — and Bill was 19, on Nov. 25, 1952.
“He said he wanted to get me before someone else did,” laughs Theresa.
The Cassels have lived a lifetime since that day in 1952, and have come through struggles that could have torn them apart.
Bill worked at the B.F. Goodrich tire factory when they were first married. He had worked there since he was 17 years old — technically underage, although his employers didn’t know that. He had applied previously at Dominion Tire, only to be told he was too young.
“I went over to BF Goodrich, and on the way I got a year older,” said Bill.
The young couple lived in an apartment when they were first married, and waited until Bill was 21 years old before building a house, since the bank wouldn’t even consider Bill for a mortgage prior to that.
Then, in 1954, with two little babies at home, tragedy struck. Bill broke his back while at work, and spent the next 14 weeks in hospital — with a further three-month recovery period with no money coming in.
“That was a really rough time for us in the city,” said Theresa, who had to walk more than a mile from their home in Waterloo to catch a bus to visit Bill in the hospital.
While Bill recovered, there was a further fight on their hands to get the compensation payments owed to him. He ended up getting his lost wages, but no support for his hospital bill — $1,100, which, at the time was astronomical.
“There were times when we owed so much money, I couldn’t sleep at night, wondering how I could pay it off,” said Bill. “I always believed in paying things off as you go.”
Somehow, they made their way through this difficulty, eventually being able to purchase a 100-acre farm in Wellesley Township in 1958. By this time, their little family had grown to four children.
A few years later, they bought a larger farm, a 200-acre property in the Hessen area. And while the land was good, the house was sorely lacking in many areas.
Theresa wanted to be able to fix it up, but there was no money. She asked Bill if she could go out to work, and use the money to fix up the place.
She started working in Elmira on Saturdays and Sundays, putting in 12-hour shifts at Textral Fibres in Elmira. During her lunch hour on Sunday, Theresa would attend mass at St. Teresa of Avila Church in Elmira.
“I never missed out on my Christian duty,” said Theresa.
She relied heavily on help from her oldest daughter, Debbie, who prepared meals for the rest of the family, and kept the house clean on those long days.
“I told her that I didn’t want to have to even look at dirty dishes when I came home,” said Theresa. “I never did.”
The Cassels lived in other homes over the years, including a stint at Conestogo Lake, before settling in Elmira in 1982, in a home on William Street that they have lived in ever since.
Bill and Theresa are still very active in the community, with involvement in the local seniors club, St. Teresa church, and with Bill still working as a driver for the Elmira Independent.
The last few years have also not been without difficulty, with Bill surviving prostate cancer in 2000, and lung cancer in 2009, when he had a lobe of his lungs removed.
Theresa has been a good nurse to Bill over the years, helping him through his various health problems.
“I was kept pretty busy,” said Theresa. “There have been a lot of visits to specialists.”
Even with these concerns, however, Bill and Theresa have managed to travel, seeing many parts of the world, including Australia, as well as many trips to British Columbia, where several of their children live.
They have nine children — seven boys and two girls — 23 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren, and are looking forward to a family celebration on Nov. 29, to recognize their 60 years of marriage.
The Cassels say their marriage has not always been easy, but it has always been worth it. They have some good advice to share with couples today, struggling to make things work.
“Work hard, and listen to each other,” said Bill.
“Share the good times, as well as the tough times,” said Theresa. “If they can talk about it, and share those tough times, it makes it easier.”
The Cassels’ wedding anniversary celebration will be held on Sunday, Nov. 25, at St. Teresa of Avila Catholica Church in Elmira. Mass will be held at 11:15 a.m., followed by a meet and greet in the hall from 2 to 4 p.m. All are welcome to attend.